Again this year and for the fifth year, the Diocese of Huron Archives will provide reference service to students enrolled in courses at Huron University College (HUC) and Western University.
When I became Archivist in January 2011, I found it remarkable that the Archives’ holdings were not better known beyond its core diocesan users – Huron Church House and the parishes. Genealogists to a degree were the exception.
The materials held by the Archives offer an academic treasure trove that I thought could support research not only in the history of the Anglican Church in Southwestern Ontario, but also in the history of Southwestern Ontario, especially in the period before the formation of the Diocese of Huron in 1857. The St. Paul’s Cathedral fonds is a particularly valuable resource in this regard.
Generated by 32 years of experience at Western Libraries and Archives, I utilized my professorial contacts in the History Departments at Huron and Western as well in Western’s Faculty of Information and Media Studies’ (FIMS) archival stream to arrange tours for faculty to familiarize them with archival holdings. My object was in attracting faculty research and in integrating holdings into class assignments.
Success followed. At HUC, Rev. Dr. Douglas Leighton and Drs.Tom Peace, Amy Bell and Nina Reid-Mulroney have integrated Archives holdings into class assignments. The Public History programme in Western’s History Department taught by Professors Michael Dove and Michelle Hamilton has also made use of the Archives. Together with HUC history professor Dr. Bill Acres, I have lectured in Dr. Peace’s class on the Litigation fonds and in holdings relating to the Mohawk Institute and residential schools in general.
The word about the Archives’ holdings has spread even to McMaster and McGill universities. Students in the archival stream at FIMS each year prepare intellectual Rules for Archival Description (RAD) compliant finding aids to assigned fonds, e.g. the Holy Trinity Cathedral (Chapter House), Mohawk Chapel and Hellmuth Ladies’ College fonds.
Based on her research using the Hellmuth Ladies’ College fonds, Dr. Amy Bell contributed an article published in Ontario History, the foremost academic journal for Ontario historians. The article is entitled “We were having a lot of fun at the photographers: Hellmuth Ladies’ College Students in Photographs, London, Ontario, 1885-1891”. A photograph from the fonds even graced the cover of the Autumn 2015 journal! A citation in an academic journal is a mark of prestige for any library or archives.
In October of each year, The Rev. Canon Nick Wells and I co-lecture to the Department of Theology’s Field Education course at HUC taught by The Rev. Canon Greg Smith. As Archivist, I lay out on the staff area tables a representative sample of the range of records typically generated by a parish, emphasizing to the future priests their responsibilities under canon law to deposit the records with the Archives; Nick (who sits on the Archives Committee and is also a volunteer with the Archives) emphasizes the necessity of completing correctly and in full marriage register and vestry book entries and other records as administratively and legally required.
While remaining integrated within the administrative framework of Huron Church House and the parishes, the Archives today plays an important academic role at HUC and Western University. The Archives also welcomes in greater numbers researchers whether in person or by e-mail who recognize that our holdings provide many insights into the history of London and Southwestern Ontario and are of assistance genealogically in assembling family trees.
John Lutman is archivist for the Diocese of Huron.